Three physiological events must be addressed for optimal recovery as it applies to strength training, power training or endurance training. Unfortunately, no trainee is immune to the following post-exercise phenomena. These three factors are as follows:
1. Glycogen Stores are low
2. Protein Breakdown is increased
3. Muscle Protein Balance is negative
For those not well versed in physiological jargon, here’s a little explanation of each:
Glycogen is muscle energy. Low glycogen stores mean that there’s less cellular energy for daily life and certainly less energy for subsequent workouts. In this situation, training and performance suffer.
Protein Breakdown indicates that body tissues (which are made of protein) are being degraded. Increases in protein breakdown can lead to losses of muscle mass.
Muscle Protein Balance is regulated by the balance between Protein Synthesis and Protein Breakdown in the following way:
After a hard workout your muscles are torn down, glycogen is depleted, and you may have even entered catabolism. The only way to stop this is by feeding them the nutrients that they need. Studies show that carbs are stored as glycogen 125% more efficiently directly after working out than any other time during the day. Also, protein synthesis (the building of new muscle) is highly elevated. It only makes sense to take advantage of this time and feed your muscles what they need to repair.
Studies have also shown, that athletes who take in carbs and protein after working out have increased levels of growth hormone and insulin versus those who just drank water. As many probably already know, these are two out of the three main hormones needed for muscle growth (testosterone being the third). By taking in carbohydrates after working out you elevate these hormones and prevent protein breakdown and excretion thus maintaining a more positive nitrogen balance. Post workout is also when your body can best absorb and utilize amino acids and supplements like creatine.
As a result of these three post workout phenomena, a failure to rapidly bring the body back into recovery mode (i.e., to increase glycogen stores, to increase protein synthesis, and to prevent protein breakdown), has several potential consequences:
-Prolonged muscle soreness and fatigue.
-Poor subsequent performances on the track, field, and/or in the gym.
-Symptoms of and or full-fledged staleness and overtraining.
-Minimal gains in muscle mass despite a well-designed training program.
-Losses of muscle mass and a secondary lowering of metabolic rate can occur if volume and intensity get high enough
It is also interesting to note that too much protein could be counterproductive. A very high protein meal can actually cause a release of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that antagonizes insulin release. So if you eat some protein with carbs, insulin shoots up. If you eat too much protein with carbs, the insulin release may actually be lower. And if this weren’t bad enough, glucagon also has another function that we want to avoid. The darn stuff causes the body to convert amino acids into glucose (a process called gluconeogenesis). So take in too much protein and say goodbye to that special amino acid ratio. Instead those aminos become carbs to be used for energy.
Recovery comes down to taking very specific nutrients at the right time. After Glow by BioRhythm is an ideal post workout recovery product based off of research done at the University of Texas. After Glow addresses all three of the post workout recovery components outlined above and is one of the best tasting products you will ever come across.